We all spend at least some of our time searching for a sense of belonging. The roots of this instinct are deep within us, born in time when being alone was a serious threat to our survival.
Today, loneliness is still lethal, just not as immediately, but many of our feelings of loneliness are based on a misconception of what it means to belong.
In the divide world we live in, we’re often told that we belong in groups of people who look like us. Who share our gender or nationality or skin colour. Belonging is too often based on these secondary characteristics rather than the primary fact that we’re all human beings. We all want love, we all want happiness, we’re all capable of giving these things to other people given the opportunity.
Here, Sebene Selassie writes for Ten Percent Happier about how she came to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of belonging:
Belonging is my nature: therefore, I belong everywhere and so does everyone else.
Including you. Yes, you—with all your history, anxiety, pain. Yes, everywhere—in every culture, community, circumstance. You belong in this body. You belong in this very moment. You belong in this breath . . . and this one. You have always belonged.
When you don’t like the joke, you belong. When you’re the “only one” of your race, disability, or sexuality, you belong. When you feel hurt or when you have hurt someone else, you belong. When you are down to your last dollars and the rent is due, you belong. When you feel overwhelmed by the horrors of human beings, you belong. When you have a debilitating illness, you belong. When everyone else is getting married, you belong. When you don’t know what you’re doing with your life, you belong. When the world feels like it’s falling apart, you belong. When you feel you don’t belong, you belong.